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Rules To Live By


by Michael Dermer, author of “The Lonely Entrepreneur: The Difference between Success and Failure is Your Perspective


We are often running from fire to fire and don’t think about the ways we can be more efficient, more balanced, more rested and more effective. Entrepreneurs just go and go and go and don’t have time to think about how to better manage themselves. Entrepreneurs embrace the consistent shunning of their own personal wellbeing and lives and it ends up making us less efficient and effective. With a little attention to your work day, you can vastly improve your performance.

Follow these rules and the impact will be obvious:

1. You must sleep.

It is impossible to maximize your time, potential and brainpower unless you sleep. I know what you are saying to yourself, “Who has time to sleep?” If your vision was to make widgets, and you had a killer widget machine, wouldn’t you make sure it had fuel and was properly oiled? It is hard to get sleep every day when you are the entrepreneur but you must. Here are a few suggestions:

2. Eight hours once per week.

One day per week — preferably in the middle of the week — get eight hours of sleep. After the financial crisis of 2008, I was working twenty hours per day, but every Wednesday I went to bed at 10 p.m. and got eight hours. Made a world of difference.

3. Take daily naps.

Each day close your eyes for thirty minutes. Any longer and you run the risk of developing “sleep inertia” — that groggy feeling that takes a considerable amount of time to shake off. Power naps not only alleviate sleep deficits, but they boost our brains, including creative problem solving, verbal memory, and perceptual object and statistical learning. Napping improves our mood and feelings of fatigue, is good for our heart, blood pressure, stress levels, and surprisingly, even weight. Where am I going to nap, you ask? Be creative. Under your desk, in your car, in the park, on your lunch break. You’ll feel the improvement in everything you do.

4. Hitting the pillow means sleep.

When you put your head on the pillow at night, don’t waste time thinking about problems you can’t fix at that moment. When you are lying in bed, there is nothing you can do about your company’s issues. Sleep means sleep.

5. Do the hardest task first thing in morning.

Do the most important or difficult task of the day first thing in the morning, when you are most rested and least distracted. Unfortunately, 90 percent of people check their email as soon as they get to work. That turns his or her agenda over to someone else. They do it because it’s easy, and feel more effective in a shorter time by answering emails. Focus first on the hardest task of the day. This will allow you to apply your best to the most important jobs.

6. Silence your technology.

When you are working on something, turn off your email and put your devices across the room with the sound off. Restricting distraction and staying on-task requires discipline and mental effort. It’s up to you to protect your cognitive resources. The more you do to minimize task-switching over the day, the more mental bandwidth you’ll have for activities that matter.

7. Never send an email after 10 p.m.

After a long day, our guard is down and our mind is not as sharp. We are careless, make mistakes, and let the pressures of the day impact our decision-making. If you have something fresh in your head, write your email and stick it in your draft folder. Emails to employees and other team members late at night also send a negative message. When we send emails to employees late at night, especially those that require follow-up or effort on their part, it makes them feel as if we don’t respect the time they put in or the time they need away from the business. This lack of respect can undermine your culture. As the leader, we must demonstrate our respect for our team, and their individual lives and efforts, especially for those early team members who are putting in long hours and making their own sacrifices.

8. Don’t be at work when you are not at work.

Time is our most valuable asset. We take so little time away from work that when we do, we should focus on where we are and what we’re doing. When you do something social, or attend an event, or go to a family function, or watch a movie, be present and get engrossed in it. The worst thing you can do is to take time away, go to a non-business function and spend the time thinking about the business. When you let yourself experience something unrelated to work, it helps settle your mind. This will help to unlock the creativity you need to advance your business. When we think about your business all the time, our perspective becomes too limited. We fail to be exposed to solutions that might come from a more balanced existence.

Reading the newspaper, discussing current events, talking about fashion, discussing someone else’s business or job — all of these introduce new perspectives about the world that not only help free your mind, but might have application to your business. Make time for and be open to unexpected intersections. Think of yourself as part of the product or service you are delivering. If the diamond in your jewelry wasn’t holding, wouldn’t you change the setting? If your consulting services were too expensive, wouldn’t you change the price? If your wearable device didn’t transmit the right data, wouldn’t you change the technology? It is no different with you. Especially with the strain you are under and the constant presence of pressure, passion, pleasure and pain – you need to be better, faster and stronger.

These rules will help you build a better product to serve customers, employees, investors and you.



Michael Dermer is the founder/author of “The Lonely Entrepreneur, a methodology to help entrepreneurs with the struggle. He discovered this methodology when the company he built for a decade – the first to provide rewards for healthy behavior – was nearly destroyed by the 2008 financial crisis. He not only overcame this to become an industry pioneer, but discovered this methodology to help entrepreneurs with the struggle is now a professional speaker, consultant, and coach for startup businesses and entrepreneurs.



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